Rare turtle hatches at Tenn. aquarium

Rare Turtle
This photo released Friday, June 15, 2007 by the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tenn., shows a baby Beal's four-eyed turtle. AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A rare turtle has hatched at the Tennessee Aquarium, one of only three places in the United States that display the endangered species, aquarium officials announced.

A Beal's four-eyed turtle, named for two white spots on the back of its head that look like a pair of eyes, hatched from a clutch of three eggs, officials said Friday.

"This little turtle in Chattanooga may represent the first successful reproduction of Sacalia bealei in a North American institution," aquarium herpetologist Enrico Walder said.

The turtle weighed 0.21 ounces and was 1.52 inches long when it hatched June 9.

There are only 18 known Beal's four-eyed turtles in the United States and Europe. The Dallas Zoo and the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, Calif., also have the turtles, officials at the Chattanooga aquarium said.

The turtles were once common in southern China, and researchers believe their numbers will not grow because of the species' low reproductive rate.

"As with many Asian species, the Beal's four-eyed turtle has been over collected for use in the Chinese food and traditional medicine trade," Walder said.

A male Beal's four-eyed turtle is on display at the aquarium, but the baby will not be exhibited until it is older.